Characterists of an Expert Teacher

I recently attended an opening speech for a new room at college where teachers can go specifically to undertake CPD activities. On the whole I thought it was an ok opening speech, a little academic and not enough practical examples to be truly inspiring, but the general themes about teaching and learning and the role of trialling new things and having space to reflect on them were linked well the importance of giving teaching space and time for CPD.

3 characteristics of an expert teacher: ( I can’t remember the name of the researcher from this, but I think it was concluded from statistical data, so as someone who leans more toward qualitative research it was a surprise to hear this.)

  • A high degree of challenge
  • Fast and frequent feedback
  • A deep understanding of teaching and learning

To acquire this deep understanding of T&L he used the analogy of violin players and the no. of hours of practice undertaken. In terms of T&L he called this ‘deliberate practice’. That is trying something new, taking risks and being innovative in the classroom. For international standard violin players they practice over 10,000 hours in a lifetime compared to 8,000 for a good violinist and 4,000 from someone who learns violin to then teach it.

Expert teachers are therefore not the teachers that deliver a grade 1 lesson every lesson, every day, every week and I think the underlying message here was that no teacher could ever be expected to. I have never been an advocate of the graded lesson observation system, but standing in a room with senior management and the director of curriculum being told that research shows that an expert teacher can not be expected to deliver consistent grade 1 lessons, and in fact it is trying new things, making mistakes and reflecting on this that supports someone in becoming an expert teacher is more than frustrating.

A full time teacher teaches 828 hours a year. 1 hour of this is observed and a grade attached to this (teacher or lesson?) I know an analogy can only go so far, but in this case the violinists analogy really falls apart. Of this 10,000 hours of practice, how much is performance. Would they take anything new and experimental into a performance – not without much practice first I’m sure. But teachers don’t get this practice time in the same way, all their practice is a performance (for learners)

When discussing this expert teacher the learner wasn’t really evident. He talked a little about learning theories and how teachers have little knowledge of how the brain works and how there should be closer ties to theory and practice. I found this a little ironic as he stood in front of 40 people and read from his notes. He commented on his lack of use of PowerPoint in terms of the availability of technology, but not in terms of providing his audience with some visual reinforcement.

Which brings me nicely into Twitter and mobile technologies. Having my phone and 140 characters was a great way of taking notes and reporting on what was being said. This is only the second time that I have used Twitter in this way. The first was at a conference at Hudd Uni and seeing what others in the room were taking as key points really enhanced the experience. Here I really wanted to try to use the technology as best I could and this meant I had to really pay attention. Without it I think I would have drifted more than I did (and as others have said they did)

Thinking about current policy on measuring the standard of T&L, if an expert teacher has a deep understanding of T&L what about an expert observer? What do they have to tell a teacher about their practice in that 1 hour snap shot that is going to have any kind of meaningful impact on practice?

  1. [...] work in this area, although I can’t admit to have read his whole book. I reflected on the opening speech of the Teacher Development Centre, where he talked about Hattie’s research (this was the first [...]

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